Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Mislabeled and Misdiagnosed Future?

I am glad that mental illness in America is no longer a dirty secret. The American public finally realized that the stigma attached to mental illness should be eradicated and that mental illness is a disease and it should not be held against individuals who have it.


 I am passionate about topics relating to children. What bothers me about the widespread acceptance of people with mental disability is the glaring fact that a lot of children now a days are taking medications for one form of mental health illness or another.


 During my not so distant past, when mental illness was not as socially acceptable, I can count with one hand children or adult I know with this affliction. Nowadays, it seems like every other person I know had been diagnosed with mental illness such as ADHD, depression, and manic depression. It is particularly disturbing to me when kids who behave like kids are labeled as “hyperactive,” “troubled,” “learning disabled,” or “mentally challenged.”


Labeling and mental health diagnoses bothers me because my daughter was once “diagnosed” by her kindergarten teacher as having ADHD and found to be in need of  “special education.”  A teacher in the public school system recommended my daughter to special education without the school psychologists’ assessment of the matter. The recommendation was based on my daughter’s low score in the kindergartner’s oral test (that was given to her when she had a bad ear infection) and her inattentiveness during class (because she already knew what was being taught in the class). I was livid when the teacher told me about it during the parent-teacher conference. And she made the situation even worst by saying, “All parents think their children are geniuses.” I asked her about the school psychologist’s recommendation and I was told that children with low test scores were “automatically” put in the state’s special education program.


 I did not let the matter lie because I knew my daughter did not need to be labeled as a slow learner or take medications she did not need. I told her teacher I want the psychologist’s input and that I will seek a second opinion from people who have the expertise and the credentials to diagnose and recommend educational placement for children. The teacher tried to appease me by giving my daughter extra work and placing her in second grade math and reading classes after she found out that my daughter had knowledge beyond her kindergarten curriculum. I did not back down so my daughter was retested. She was recommended to the gifted class after the school psychologist did the much-needed Individualized Educational Placement (IEP) assessment. It is fortunate that she was not labeled negatively because I believe that being in the gifted class contributed to her many educational successes.


 The above experience left me thinking how many children must had been misdiagnosed and/or educationally misplaced in the school system. How sad it is for a child to be labeled and/or misdiagnosed: to grow up believing she/he is not capable of learning or that there is something wrong with her/him when she/he is as capable of learning as other children and that she/he is mentally healthy until she/he fulfilled the misdiagnosed prophecy.


jibaro6543 said...

Alot of children were misdiagnosed just because the teachers could not handle them in class ...they were not the "perfect" student...so they were diagnosed for the wrong reasons...then some were never ...teachers just kept promoting them just to get them out of their class....it is sad how children are dealt with in the area of mental illness.

aiibrat said...

i'm glad you are such a proactive parent.  i cringe to think of a more passive person letting this "teacher" determine whether or not the child's normal or not.


chatzeekay said...

Very great entry. you are 100 percent right and I know what you mean. Menatl illenss is very mis understood not only that in the court they care less what happened to you etc. If Iw ould tell you about my issue we would be on the ball thanks for sharing this and caring about children with the issue and adults

bosoxblue6993w said...

Don't get me stated on teachers!  The fact that Albert Einstein would NOT be qualified to teach a high school science course today ... or that Abe Lincoln WOULDN'T be allowed to teach Civics ... is ll I'm going to say!

holtheartcottage said...

I am a special ed teacher... came to the field after years in a verbally abusive marriage, therapy, therapy, Prozac, therapy, and divorce.  I have been placed by spiritual forces in the special ed classroom.  Taught BD/ED kids for 3 years, and now LD kids... all at the middle school (6,7,8th grade) level.  I HEAR what these kids are saying and not saying, I FEEL their frustrations, and I applaud their courage to come to school and try.  

My frustration is with regular ed teachers who think these kids can just try harder, focus harder, apply themselves... sometimes, sometimes, it is really a complex mix of physiological development, familial dysfunction, and community crime/ gang activity that influences how a student learns.  The brain is so complex.  The more I read and study about it the more awesome it appears.  And to take this information and try to make appropriate  / meaningful lesson plans is quite a daunting task.

To the one gym teacher who refuses to believe in Special Education, I recently took off my glasses and told him to ask me to read something across the cafeteria.  I could not.  I told him that some of the sped ed kids had different but just as real physiological disabilities.  You don't tell someone with AIDS to cure themselves.  You teach them how to deal with it.  You teach them how to take one minute at a time and make the most of it.  AIDS might be too extreme, but some of my students have extremely dysfunctional families and our community... well.... maybe it is not too extreme.

We are all in this together.  Labeled or not labeled our kids need the best from each of us - teachers, administrators, and family!  It is so basic... it takes a village...
L. H. Northern Illinois

derasta said...

This is an excellent entry and I feel you are right on in your opinions. It does seem that nearly every child that exibits high energy is labeled something or other...I think they are just using this as a scape goat if you ask me.


belfastcowboy75 said...

I generally see the opposite: parents trying to get their children into special needs programs and private placements; schools resisting due to dwindling resources and high demand. I would not classify ADHD as a mental illness, though.

tendernoggle said...

I just started reading your journal and love it already!
On the subject of special children...
I have a mentally handicapped son who is 32 years old....He still lives with us.
When he was in school we were told he would never learn to spell his name, never learn basic math, never be able to write,and never read....
It made me mad that the school just gave up on him. Not having any money or resources to draw on at the time, I went to a flea market and bought an abacus(a little wooden tablet wthat had metal rods with beads on them) and not only taught my son how to add, but also subtract and multiply. I would sit down with him everyday after school and not only did I teach him to spell his name, but also to write and read. While he is still mentally handicapped, he was not as mentally challanged as the school said...my theory is they just didn't want to take the extra time to do it.

musenla said...

Kudos to you for standing your ground.  You're absolutely right, mental illness, like any other disease, is an involuntary condition for which people who have it should not be shunned or ostracized.

However, our society's addition to quick fixes and instant evaluations isn't doing those who are ill of any disease any good.  I'm alarmed at the way powerful medications are prescribed like candy to our kids at the slightest suspicion of physical or emotional problems.  It's a lazy and irresponsible response to the problem, not to mention potentially dangerous.

mlraminiak said...

Parts of this entry are something that I have wanted to write about, but I've been reluctant to do so, because so many people out there are on medication...I didn't want to alienate anyone.  I believe medications like ritalin and anti-depressants are seriously over-prescribed.  I believe labels like "Depression," "ADHD," "Social Anxiety Disorder," and others are purposely--and dangerously--vague.  I really don't believe that consumers know the power of the psycho-active drugs they are taking, and they had better damned well NEED them in order to function, or it's not worth the risk to take them.  I have all kinds of psychological issues, that could probably be labeled all kinds of nasty things, but I'll be damned if I hate myself so much that I want to take a pill to turn me into someone else.  Okay...I'm done pontificating now :)  
Lisa  :-]

josephpaci5 said...

I couln't be more pleased to see a parent frustrated with the school system, take control of the situation, and get to the Real Truth as to what her child needs and DOESN"T need!  Hooray for you! More parents should be like you! My son was recently diagnosed as mentally challenged, we took him outside of the school system and tested him privately, but the school seems to have "given up on him".  Telling us he will NEVER reach the brass ring!  Well , my son is a wonderful conversationalist, a loving, sweet , considerate, and kind human being! He is intelligent, he learns differently, and no one, I mean no one wants to be bothered, so they give up, it's easier for them. They would rather help someone they feel will reach that brass ring, and not waste their time with someone they feel won't.  Well, my son WILL, do whatever it is he wants to in life, and I'll go to my grave before I'll allow anyone, to put restrictions on what he will and will not be capable of, because when you restrict, and have low or no expectations, that is what you get!  My son is amazing, and to meet him no one would know he has a problem, and that is part of the problem, he was misdiagnosed for years! I am proud of him no matter what he is or does, But all parents should get involved, and don't ever take the schools word as final, you know your child best, and if something doesnt seem right, is probably isnt, we have rights, and our children need us to fight for them, so please put your children first and never be ashamed or embarrased of  what they may be, because we are all they have!